Friday, June 24, 2016

The Beast by JR Ward

The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #14)The Beast by J.R. Ward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am so late reading this for me. I usually read these when they first come out. I couldn't afford the hardcover, so I was glad that it was at the library and available. I still plan to pick up my copy when I can afford it, but at least I had the trusty loner copy to read. God bless you, Round Rock Public Library!

This book was fantastic. I am an unashamed Black Dagger Brotherhood fan, I would never dissemble about that. I truly enjoy each book in the series. The last book didn't make five stars for me, but this one does. I felt like this book was almost like a status update for the Brotherhood, as odd as that sounds. And when I say that, I don't mean that the book was phoned in. I just mean that Ward doesn't go overboard with trying to introduce major plotlines, but instead explores threads that have been ongoing in the series. She does introduce a few intriguing new characters, but it's not done invasively where you get annoyed because she isn't following up with the ones you are so assiduously following.

I recently reread Lover Eternal, and that was a good move. I first read Lover Eternal many years ago, probably like eight, and it was so nice to revisit the early books and go back to the basics of the storyline. Unlike some of the BDB fans, I do really love the later books (including the much maligned Lover Enshrined. But one of the things I really appreciated about rereading Lover Eternal was the more pared down storyline before so many characters got introduced and the world became so complex. In the process, I realized what a sweet guy Rhage really is. He's drop dead gorgeous, and he's been with a whole lot of women. My guards go up with that kind of hero because life seems so easy for them. But that's the really interesting thing about Rhage. His life is so not easy. Some parts of his life frankly suck. So when he and Mary got their happy ending, that was very satisfying. I worried that Ward would go for the drama and do something to make trouble for this couple, but thankfully she doesn't do that at all. instead, their relationship is cemented in the most vital of ways. They deal with the issue that neither has wanted to focus on, knowing they got their very own miracle in being together. That is dealt with beautifully. One might argue that things come together a bit too conveniently, but I don't think so. I loved it. The Beast plays a major role is a very satisfying way. I think of him like a very big, rowdy pet. Is that wrong of me? Anyway, I think Mary/Rhage fans will be very satisfied with this book. They are one of the most unqualified romantic couples in this series, and I say that sincerely, since everyone knows my favorite couple is Xhex and JM.

When I look at other aspects of this book, I felt they were also well done, although Xcor and the BoB storyline is rather sidelined. Assail has a very forward plotline in this book, and I wasn't sure where it was going. I'm still not sure, but it promises to be interesting. While Assail is quite the anti-hero, I can't help liking him. But then, I do like my antiheroes. :)

Layla's storyline is very focused on two aspects of her current situation. I still hope that she will somehow gain the opportunity to be more developed in other ways. While her complex relationship with Qhuinn and Blay did grow on me, we don't really get to see her interact with Xcor, which I was disappointed about. Now that a major source of angst for her is resolved, I hope to see something else with her narrative. I like Layla a lot.

Vishous seemed to have a very prominent role in this book. I'm convinced that Ward is very partial to him. I was talking to my sister about Vishous and I really nailed his character in a way that surprised me. I feel that his relationship with Jane is disappointing to many readers, but while they blame Jane for not being the right person, I think the reality is, Vishous is just not an easy guy to be in a relationship or be mated to. I don't think that he would do any better with Butch, although I know there are some hardcore Vutch fans out there. Don't get me wrong, I love him, his big hairy warts and all. But he's not an easy guy to be around. I liked the developing friendship shall we say, with Assail. That was different and kind of unexpected. His relationship (or not) with the Scribe Virgin was explored and I am ambivalent about that. I wonder where Ward is going with it.

I have to say that I can't get enough of these characters. I always feel like I want more of of them than what Ward gives me in each book. In my secret heart of hearts, I hope that HBO does a show for the Black Dagger Brotherhood, just so I can look forward to weekly episodes with the Brotherhood and Co. instead of having to wait a year to read more about them. I trust HBO to do a good job after how wonderful they have done with the Game of Thrones series. Maybe one day....

This is probably one of my shortest BDB reviews in a long time. I think it's a combination of my reviewing just becoming more concise because of life and also because this book is really back to basics. Even though it was as long as her other books, I feel that Ward trimmed a lot of the fat and she keeps her focus on the main storylines that need exploration. She does drop some breadcrumbs to intrigue the fans to keep reading, but it's not as audacious as typical. I am intrigued with the new female character and what role she will play in the series. And I am still wondering where the heck is Murdher? I'm having a Murdher deficiency here.

This was a great book. It helped me through a difficult situation I had to face this week and kept my mind off some of the ramifications of that. That's the power of great fiction. Thanks for that!

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Girl Nobody Wanted by Lynn Raye Harris

The Girl Nobody WantedThe Girl Nobody Wanted by Lynn Raye Harris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My review is a bit spoilery, but it's nothing you couldn't predict if you tend to read romance novels.

I didn't like the hero in this much at all. Leo was a very selfish person. I get that he was raised with a poor moral compass in may ways, but his attitude towards women and sex was objectionable to me. I can't stand heroes who use women for sex and don't even care about them emotionally. He actually bragged to the heroine Anna about having a foursome with some models! Ugh. This is one instance where I wish the heroine was repulsed by the hero. He started out just mainly wanting to have sex with Anna because she was prissy and he wanted to take her down a peg. When he found out she was a virgin, he got an attack of conscience. They are stranded on an island (the hero's fault) and Anna decides she's tired of being a good girl. One thing leads to another. Anna hands out some of Leo's own medicine back, saying they are over once they get off the island. Of course, she finds out she's pregnant, and when she looks him up, he treats her very poorly indeed.

Leo's not all bad, but he's got a lot of traits that are deal-breakers for me in a hero. He makes it seem like it's a big deal that he's celibate for a few months. Yes, that's pretty unusual for him, since apparently woman regularly drop trousers for him. But the man acts like he's God's gift to the world, and makes it seem like marrying Anna is a huge sacrifice. I for one believe that a woman should feel like she's the only woman in the world to a man she's going to marry. I especially expect that in a romance novel hero. Anne is very insecure, and while that's not Leo's fault, he definitely doesn't help build her confidence any, even knowing she was essentially jilted by the man she was supposed to marry, who married his sister instead. When Anna lets him off the hook, then he decides that maybe he's in love with her after all. No thanks. I wouldn't marry this guy either. Of course, you know they end up together, since this is a romance novel. I hope Leo grows up and becomes a man, in ways other than being able to have sex with many woman.

I like Lynn Raye Harris as an author. I think she's a good writer. I just have high standards that this hero did not meet.

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Blackthorne's Bride by Shana Galen

Blackthorne's Bride (Misadventures in Matrimony, #3)Blackthorne's Bride by Shana Galen
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I'm torn about this one. I loved the first two books, but I felt this one wasn't as well-plotted and and some of the events were a bit tangled. I did like the chemistry between Jack and Madeleine and I just plain love the camaraderie between Madeleine and her cousins. I've definitely read better historical romances, even by this author, but it was an entertaining read, and I did love how they both come to realize their feelings for each other and don't look back. The love scenes were nicely steamy. The mistaken wedding part was hilarious. What do you do when that happens? Hope for the best. I think it worked out the way it was supposed to, after all.

The suspense part was good. Jack truly had a wicked enemy and he shows up often enough to cause mega trouble. The conclusion is very satisfying, and I'm left to wonder if we'll ever see Ashley's book.

I'd have to give this 3.5/5.0 stars because it just doesn't measure up to the first two books in the series, No Man's Bride and Good Groom Hunting.

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Forgotten Mistress, Secret Love-Child by Annie West

Forgotten Mistress, Secret Love-Child (Regally Wed #2)Forgotten Mistress, Secret Love-Child by Annie West
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I'm estimating on the date I read this. Sometime in early June. It took me this long to get around to writing my review. This was well-written, I just wasn't that fond of Alessandro. He's a bit of the poor little rich boy type. Raised by uncaring parents, his mother left him when he was young and so he thinks every woman is a good digger. A lack of trust between Alessandro and Carys lead to the downfall of their relationship, that and his growing emotional remoteness from her. Carys is somewhat insecure, due to her learning disability and not fitting in with her overachieving parents and siblings. She was almost too easy for a man like Alessandro to seduce to fall into a relationship with him because she craved being loved by someone. That's part of why I didn't care for the way Alessandro treated her. The amnesia aspect was a bit of a twist, but it didn't really make me more sympathetic to him. I wish that he had to work harder to gain Carys' love than he did. Ultimately, he does show how much she means to him, but I would have liked more demonstrativeness from him. I did see a lot of sexual chemistry between them, but the emotional connection is more important I think. I did love how he supported Carys in what she does, in light of her dyslexia. The baby was cute as well.

Not a favorite of mine by the author, but pretty good.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Justice League, Vol. 6: Injustice League by Geoff Johns, et al

Justice League, Vol. 6: Injustice LeagueJustice League, Vol. 6: Injustice League by Geoff Johns
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is set in the aftermath of discovering that there is a parallel earth where the Justice League is bad. The JL has Superman's arch-nemesis Lex Luthor clamoring to join, and doing good deeds (for his own intentions), and a young woman is claimed by the Dark Green Lantern Power Ring (one that feeds on fear instead of will). The JL steps in to help her before the ring destroys her and those around her, and a virus is released from Lex's lab that causes humans to manifest metahuman power. It also attacks members of the League with disastrous consequences. Obviously, the League has their hands full.

I didn't find much to dislike about this volume. Plenty of action and suspense, and some nice twists.

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Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb (writer), Jim Lee (illustrator), et al

Batman: HushBatman: Hush by Jeph Loeb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a good graphic novel. There were a lot of twists and turns in the storyline as Batman followed Breadcrumbs and realized that a particular character wasn't the one pulling strings, and everything is leading to a puppet master behind everything. A parallel storyline is Bruce's relationship with Thomas Elliot, a childhood friend who has suffered losses just as Bruce did, but went in a different direction. What I didn't like so much is that the main character who is behind everything really isn't revealed in this volume, even though you can easily surmise who it is. I'm glad my library has Batman: Hush Returns. I liked the artwork and the storytelling is good, just too abrupt an ending.

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Control Point (Shadow Ops, #1)Control Point by Myke Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What if people suddenly manifested magical powers and those powers were either deemed illegal or only could be used under the jurisdiction of the government and military? What if you're in the military and all of a sudden, you manifest powers that are considered forbidden? That's Oscar Britton's journey.

Oscar is a very conflicted character. Everything he thought he knew has been challenged, and his deeply held sense of right and wrong is continually tested as he goes from being on one side of the equation to the other, and back. He's a loyal Army soldier, until he realizes that his handlers might be the bad guys in some aspects.

It's interesting that I read this around the time I saw the movie Captain America: Civil War, because they both deal with similar issues. Does being right mean that you're always on the 'right' side? And how your vantage point can definitely affect how you view the morality of a situation.

The magic was really interesting, and I liked seeing Oscar develop and learn to use his powers. He matures emotionally as this book unfolds, and that isn't always comfortable reading. Some of the scenes were really hard to read, and some characters were downright creepy as heck in their powerful abilities. Also the examination of bigotry and racism (not necessarily skin color, but identity and being other than the norm). It looks hard at the military and how that all works being a grunt and having to follow orders, even if they aren't morally right, according to you.

This is the first book in this series, and I'm curious to see where the story goes next. I think that science fiction and fantasy have the ability to look hard at issues and get a reader thinking about things. This book definitely did that for me. The action was well done and had me on the edge of my seat, and I liked Oscar. I felt sympathy for him, because he was in a very rough situation and he was continually forced to make some difficult choices in this book.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Love in the Afternoon (The Hathaways, #5)Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I took a multiple year break between this and the rest of the series. It was intentional. This was the last book before Ms. Kleypas started her hiatus from historical romance. I didn't want to not have one if I needed an LK fix. Even after all those years, I fell back into the world of the Hathaways, like a worn in pair of shoes. They feel like real people to me, just as quirky as real relatives. Beatrix earns a special place in my heart as heroine. She is such a wonderful, sweet person, but has a very thoughtful and wise beyond her years core. Many times I didn't feel like Christopher deserved her in the least. I love animals much in the same way as Beatrix, so I really connected to her in her animal and nature love.

The romance seduced me, even when I didn't really like Christopher. I felt bad for his experiences, but his superior and somewhat shallow behavior initially was a turnoff. I like that he did evolve as a character. I was sorry for the way he suffered in the war, and it took that to help mature him. I am sure it didn't help that his mother was so mean to him and made no mistake about favoring John (his brother).

As always, the Hathaways charm the socks off me. It was lovely to see how the years have evolved the various siblings and their spouses. I did miss seeing Harry and Poppy. It was awesome to see the next generation of Hathaways.

Lisa Kleypas has such a wonderful voice and her historical romances are sensual in a way that goes beyond sexuality. Her descriptions of the setting stimulate all the senses in a delightful way. And the letters that Beatrix and Christopher exchange are heartfelt and deep.

Other than Christopher starting out as a jerk, I can't say I disliked anything about this book. I love that he realizes before it's too late what a treasure he has in Beatrix, and he truly is like many of her charges, wounded and striking out in anger, but deep down in need of love and care.

Another wonderful Hathaway novel by Ms. Kleypas. A treasure to read.

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Fire Bound by Christine Feehan

Fire BoundFire Bound by Christine Feehan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved the different direction that Feehan took with Lissa's story. Instead of the story taking place in Sea Haven at the farm, this one is set primarily in Italy, and Lissa is not the hunted, but the huntress. I am always satisfied when Feehan introduces another Prakenskii brother. While I adore the GhostWalker men (flaws included), the Prakenskiis have a special place in my heart. Each brother gets near to my favorite. I am pretty sure that it's a bit of a four way tie between Maxim, Gavril, Ilya and Casimir now. I do dearly love Ilya, and I never thought Feehan could top him, but she has, boy howdy. I have a bizarre fondness for assassin leads, and I got two for the price of one with Lissa and Casimir. Lissa is the real deal, and I wish for more heroines like her.

Casimir is perfect for Lissa. He's her match and he respects her for the woman she is, that she's been fashioned into. It takes a strong man to acknowledge that a woman is his equal. While Casimir was protective of Lissa, he didn't try to get in the way of her mission, but is her helpmate. I like that they work together to fulfill their mutual goals, and that their passion burns hot and their love is true.

This book had more of a semi-overt BDSM tone than the other books. I am the first to admit I am not a fan of BDSM. Fortunately, it wasn't over the top, although there was one device that was definitely a little weird for my tastes. I did like that Casimir wasn't about subjugation or domination but mutual pleasure. There is a welcome contrast between their love play and what is going on unbeknownst to Lissa. I didn't like the scene in which certain men abuse a certain woman. It made me sick and I felt really bad for that poor woman. I was glad that Casimir had such a visceral and righteously angry reaction to that situation.

I felt for Lissa in that she was raised with so much betrayal. Despite that, she was incredibly strong and self-actualized. I just hate that she was used that way. When the people you trust and love do that to you, it's even worse. Even though she had her Sisters of the Heart, she had to hide that part of her from them, and that made her feel lonely and isolated. I was glad that she doesn't have to be lonely anymore.

The wedding scene was so touching, and I loved the surprise guest. those Prakenskiis are so romantic! All I have to say is that the next book is going to be something else. The pigeons are really coming home to roost. I am officially giving my seal of approval if Feehan has books for the other guys from the worst of the Russian spy schools. :)

This is my second favorite book series by Feehan for a reason. It's really hard to top the GhostWalkers for me. I freaking love that series like a house on fire. But this series is a close second . I think the Prakensii/Sisters of the Heart books have such great heroes and heroines. Strong men who aren't jerks, who appreciate their heroines for who they are and are willing to make sacrifices to be with them. I'm sad to see that it will end soon! All I can say to Ms. Feehan is, keep the Russians coming, please.

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Friday, May 27, 2016

The Ugly Duckling Debutante by Rachel Van Dyken

The Ugly Duckling Debutante (The House of Renwick, #1)The Ugly Duckling Debutante by Rachel Van Dyken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wrote a review, but my mom borrowed my computer and closed the browser before I saved it. My fault for not saving it. I wasn't that happy with the review, so here's my second chance.

I enjoyed this book a lot, and it almost got five stars, but things sort of fell apart around the climax. I don't like manufactured drama, and the blowup near the end felt like that to me. While I agree that keeping secrets from people and being dishonest is wrong, it was clear that the situation that makes Renwick blow up at Sara could have easily been resolved with a long discussion. That's why my rating went down to four stars.

Otherwise, this is a feel good Regency romance that makes me remember how much I love reading historical romance. Renwick is actually a Rake hero that I felt sorry and sympathetic for. He actually did all the rakish things that hurt his reputation, and what he did was pretty bad. But he suffered for it, was repentant about it and turned over a new leaf. Laying eyes on Sara was testing his resolve in the worst way. Sara was raised to believe she was as ugly as sin, and when people said she wasn't normal, she winced. The truth was she was ridiculously gorgeous. That reminded me of Lord Dain from Lord of Scoundrels, who believes he's ugly, but is merely gorgeous in an unconventional way. Sara's lack of self esteem is understandable, but I like that she is feisty too. She doesn't let Renwick walk all over her, although she is definitely susceptible to his allure (and who could blame her?).

I liked the humor a lot and the chemistry between Renwick and Sara is dazzling. They can't seem to keep their hands off each other. This is a fade to black kind of romance, and I did miss love scenes. I don't always have to have them, but in this case, the missing love scenes were a bit of a let down. I really rooted for their happy ending together, and that's part of why the Big Miss was so annoying to me. Fortunately, the story finds its feet and the ending is so lovely, with an awesome epilogue.

I would recommend this series to Kindle/ebook readers looking for good romance that you might never find in the print section of your bookstore and library. Renwick is scrumptious and not to be missed by those readers who have a weakness for rakes of the reformed or soon-to-be-reformed variety. Sara is the kind of historical heroine you can't help but love.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Savage Destiny by Amanda Browning

Savage DestinySavage Destiny by Amanda Browning
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this about a month ago, but didn't get a chance to review it or add it to my currently reading shelf. It's a great second chance at love book with a twist. Alix has every reason to hate Pierce and distrust him for the cruel way he treated her the first time they were married, and with him back, she can't believe he has good motives. The author does a great job of showing the reader they whys and how much Pierce really does love Alix. Alix doesn't want to believe (and can't afford to), that Pierce has good motives, so Pierce has to show her. I can see why she was so resistant and cynical about him. He had to prove herself to him and he did. I love a hero who is crazy about the heroine. After I finished this, I reread the beginning because there is such a huge revelation in what was really going on and how deeply Pierce loves Alix and regrets what he did. He had his reasons, but it was so unbelievably cruel. However, I believe that this is one hero who definitely redeems himself for the heroine.

I think I was recommended this by one of the girls on the Harlequin Presents group, and I'm glad I did get it on Kindle. It's an oldie but goodie that I definitely wouldn't have wanted to miss out on.

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Glass Houses by Anne Stuart

Glass HousesGlass Houses by Anne Stuart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a reread, but this is my first time reviewing it. I love this book. One of my old favorites. Michael is unapologetically arrogant and used to getting his way. His aggressive businessman tactics have gotten him to the top 50 wealthiest men, but he wants to be in the top ten. He's bought up sweet real estate all over New York, particularly in one area, to build his planned towers named after himself. But one building stands in his way, the Glass House. One stubborn woman refuses to sell it. He's going to have to go in person to convince her that the worst place for her to stand is in his way. He knows he can handle her, as long as he gives her something she really wants. He never expected her to be what he wanted all along.

Laura is one determined person. She might have grown up in a privileged family, but her life hasn't been easy, with self-absorbed, demanding, and immature parents. She's determined to hold onto the familial legacy her grandmother left her specifically because she'd keep it safe. And one bossy, ruthless businessman isn't going to convince her otherwise. Laura decided that she didn't want any messy love affairs since her disastrous first time, and when she settles down, it will be with a sweet, compliant, controllable man. Too bad she has the hots for a man that isn't so easily manipulated, and in fact, manages to get her to let go of her own sense of dominance over her world.


This old favorite of mine still stands up to reread. While the secondary romance between Laura's right hand woman Susan and Frank, a male model, isn't quite as dynamic as the push and pull between Laura and Michael, it's still very satisfying, an unrequited love story. You don't know if Frank has had a thing for Susan but didn't act on it for professional reasons, or if the recent events have clarified things for him and he realizes that his shallow lifestyle was a dead end one.

The spark and the attraction between Michael and Laura still sizzle after so many years. Laura is feisty and acerbic, but inside has a vulnerability that speaks to her lack of affirmation as a young girl. Michael is very much an alpha hero, and at times a bit on the edge of being a jerk. I think he retains his appeal for me (despite not being my type, not into businessmen really) because Laura can definitely handle him, and he wouldn't do well with a woman he was more accommodating. I liked that both characters realize that their life plans are based on a narrow focus with goals that aren't achievable, because human beings can't be controlled, and we can barely control ourselves most of the time. Even though Michael is the boardroom shark type who thinks he can have whatever he wants, not usually my favorite, he was very sexy and I liked that deep down he had a good heart and had his family roots which grounded him.

The POV of the new arrival to town who's supposed to be the next big face, but is morally bankrupt and calculating underneath her flawless beauty is a good counterpoint to the two romance stories. You realize that this woman can't love anyone other than herself, and the people in her life who don't know that, soon figure it out the hard way.

I read my ebook copy, which was released about a year ago. I couldn't tell if this was rewritten slightly, but I suspect it might have been. I don't remember the Harlequin American Romance books using the 'f' word or a-hole. I'm really glad that this was released as an ebook, because it was such a good wind-down from a long day to curl up in bed with my Kindle to read this.



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Friday, May 20, 2016

Playing With Fire by Derek Landry

Playing with Fire (Skulduggery Pleasant, #2)Playing with Fire by Derek Landy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a crazy book series, but I like that about it. A lead character who is a sorcerer whose body is skeletal. A thirteen-year-old girl who stays out all night fighting evil creatures and sends her reflection to school as a stand in. Heinous, and I do mean heinous villains who don't mind exploding people, along with psychopathic assassins with Southern accents who can dig through the ground and who have a favorite straight razor. Yup. That's what this book is about.

I think that this one is a lot more dark, violent and disturbing than the first book, so I'd definitely warn a parent to read it first before letting a kid younger than twelve read this. The narrator was great. I loved his accents and how he makes these very strange characters stand out. I like his intonation for Skulduggery, rather sarcastic and one of those people who really don't panic. If he does, then you're in trouble. I enjoy his relationship with Valkyrie/Stephanie. She talks to him kind of disrespectfully, but it doesn't bother him. He treats her as an equal.

There were loose ends tied up from the first book that really needed tying. Even a cameo of sorts from Valkyrie's deceased uncle who left her his house and fortune. The sorcerer world grows bigger and more complicated in this book, and Valkyrie has cause to think about the life she's chosen as the descendant of Ancients who has decided to fight the good fight. She realizes how much time she's missing out with her family.

This book is just plain weird. If you don't like weird, pass it by. If you have strong opinions on what young people should read and that list includes violent books with sorcery, monsters and psychopathic characters who have no qualms about harming a 13-year-old girl, then you won't care for this. But if you like fun, weirdly humorous, quirky, sometimes scary, and sometimes creepy crawly books with not a small degree of wish fulfillment for tweens (and messages about empowerment for young girls), then you might like this.


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Twisted Creek by Jodi Thomas

Twisted CreekTwisted Creek by Jodi Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I checked this out on audiobook and my sister and I listened to it in the car. It was a fun read. I liked that one of the narrators was male and the other was female. They alternated the parts of Allie and Luke and it was a nice touch. The male narrator sounded a bit noir, but it suits Luke being an investigator of sorts. The female narrator makes Allie sound as adorable as she is. I pictured Allie as Claire Bowen, who plays Scarlett on "Nashville."



For Luke, I pictured a younger Luke Wilson

I loved the small town, Texas atmosphere. All of the characters are quirky. They are all hanging on to life on the edge of Jefferson's Crossing, near the lake that was made when Jefferson's ancestors dammed up Twisted Creek. Allie is a very sweet young woman. Her devotion to her grandmother made me smile. Nana raised her when Allie's self-centered, good for nothing mother ran off. When Allie's grandfather died, Nana lost their farm and Allie had to leave school to help take care of Nana.
I liked this viewpoint of their relationship. It's not typical to think of a young woman who is living with and supporting and caring for an aged relative, but I'm sure it happens more than one would believe. Allie has a lot of burdens on her young shoulders, but you never get the impression she wants to get rid of that burden of caring for her grandmother, but does it willingly.

I liked the rag-tag band of Nesters (as the objectionable sheriff) refers to them. Each of them has been hurt by life, or merely decided to drop out and hang out in the fringes. When Allie and Nana arrive at Jefferson's Crossing, they establish a found family of these misfits, one that effects change for everyone in a good way.

Luke was one heck of a guy. Thomas writes Texan heroes that make me wish I met guys like that in real life living in Texas. Luke is definitely a keeper. Even though he seems like a slacker, he has some very strong reasons for being on the lake. He and Allie have great chemistry that is a good underpinning for this book, but the relationships between all the characters could actually stand on its own. I loved how he connects to Nana almost immediately and they form a strong relationship.

I adore Jodi Thomas's books. They are satisfying reads with characters that feel real and are quirky and textured. She is a great romance writer, but one of her best skills as a writer is characterization. Her larger-than-life characters come out of the page and make friends with the reader.

I have a print version of this, but I'm really glad I got the audiobook. I do have to say that the Southern accent made the narrative a bit slower than I wanted at times, since I read much faster than the narrator speaks. However, that was true to the characters.

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In the Spinster's Bed by Sally McKenzie

In the Spinster's Bed (Spinster House, #0.5)In the Spinster's Bed by Sally MacKenzie
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

I have to be honest. I did not like the hero William, much at all. He was a selfish prick, in my opinion. He did come around slowly. He felt betrayed by his wife, but for good reason, but then he becomes a bad husband, visiting brothels and getting drunk, and when he decides to focus on his marriage, his wife has fallen into a depraved lifestyle. I know he was young, but he was old enough to know better. Then he goes into hiding in a small town, Loves Bridge. He sees his old flame, Belle, and decides he deserves to start hitting that again, and says something really mean to her when she says no, before they can do the dead. She had every right to stop things with a married man. Also, I didn't like that he was perfectly okay with cheating on his wife with prostitutes, but not with a respectable woman. I think prostitution is reprehensible. I don't think prostitutes deserve any less respect than any woman (even if they're paid sex workers), and I think less of a hero who believes that. While William does apologize for what he said to Belle, it left a bad taste in my mouth. As well as his double standards about his wife's behavior. She was acting out and he couldn't be a man and love her and commit to his marriage, even if she wasn't what he thought she was.

This novella pushed my buttons in the worst way about male and female relations and societal double standards that still exist today. The woman gets into trouble, and is forced to deal with it alone, and the man skips out blissful and free from responsibility. Young William didn't deserve Young Belle, and I'm not 100% sure that Old William does. She gave him her virginity and he goes off and forgets her, and leaves her to deal with a situation he definitely contributed to. Then when he sees her, he assumes she's going accommodate his horniness despite his wife back in town. Ugh. Belle definitely loved more than he did. I like that Belle is a normal woman with normal needs. I'm so glad that her conscience kicked in and she won't go through with sleeping with him, even if he's in a bad marriage. I think it would have been a dealbreaker if she did sleep with him while he was married. Women do have sex drives, and while she was celibate for many years, she still had those feelings. I hated that she was made to be the fallen woman by her awful father (a vicar of all things) while William goes off and sows plenty of wild oats, before and after his marriage (and going to prostitutes doesn't make it better than his wife's more public, less discrete behavior).

I'm really glad this was a free read. I would have been a lot madder if I hadn't read for free. I normally like this author a lot. I couldn't get past William's behavior and the blase' attitude about prostitution, which I know she's not alone about. It's treated as a casual thing but it's a social ill and it's a terrible life for those women (and often men and children). I would like to see more heroes who realize how wrong that it. Like another reader, the high point was the cat, Poppy, who becomes not just a matchmaker but a protector of the spinsters. I'm crazy in love with cats so that worked for me.

Having said that, if a reader wants to get a prequel for this series, it's free on Kindle. I have the Kindle, but I read this as a bonus novella with How to Manage a Marquess.

Overall rating: 2.5/5.0 stars.

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The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud

The Hollow Boy (Lockwood & Co. #3)The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was thrilled that my library finally got the audiobook for this latest release in the Lockwood and Co. series. I've been listening to it from the beginning and I hated to have to change format. The narrator is a different person, but she was very good. She brings Lucy, George, Lockwood and the other characters to life distinctively.

I was slightly less impressed with this than the previous books, but it was still very good. I wasn't sure I liked the addition of a new agent to the team. The trio has such a good vibe, but the advent of Holly causes some tension and throws off the chemistry. Lucy is violently jealous of her. Lucy is very possessive over Antony, and it seems as though she has a raging crush on him. Lockwood is a dashing figure (if you're a teenaged girl). I think he does have a lot of gravitas and maturity. I wish that he wasn't so oblivious to the emotions roiling around him at times. Lucy practically seethes, but he doesn't seem to pick up on it. I didn't dislike Holly, but I'm not sure exactly why Stroud chose to add her to the team. Maybe me and Lucy are on the same page here. George is his same endearing self. He's such a character. I liked that the Lockwood team actually joins forces with Quill Kipps and his two agents for the investigation of the department store that is frightfully haunted.

Lucy is delving deeper into Antony's past, and developing her ability to talk to ghosts, one that is admittedly dangerous. Like the other books, there is a spectacular climax, but that's not the end of the tension, since this one ends on a cliffhanger. I wasn't too happy with that. I hate cliffhangers.

I'm a huge fan of ghost stories, and I love Stroud's take on it. Ghosts are anything from irritating to downright lethal. And with each book, the layers get pulled back more, revealing how dangerous and disturbing a world in which ghosts are everywhere and can do humans harm might be.

Eagerly awaiting the next book in this series.

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The Eternity Code (Artemis Fowl #3) by Eoin Colfer

The Eternity Code (Artemis Fowl, #3)The Eternity Code by Eoin Colfer
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I loved The Arctic Incident so much that this was a bit of a letdown as the follow-up. Having said that, it was a very entertaining book. Even though I have a paper copy, I picked up the audiobook narrated by a favorite British actor of mine, Nathaniel Parker. He narrated the heck out of it. I loved his various accents, everything from Irish to New Yorker.

Artemis is still being a criminal genius, but his conscience is being impacted by his father's return and new lease on life, and his association with the Faery people. When his latest scheme results in a tragic outcome to one of his beloved companions and powerful fae technology falling into the hands of a megalomanic, immoral tech billionaire, he has his work cut out for him getting it back.

I still love the concept of a teenage super-genius would-be villain. I like that Artemis is still antiheroic without being sociopathic or downright evil. His character has grown and it makes him more interesting. I love his bodyguard, Domovoi Butler, so some things that happened to him weren't my favorite. His sister, Juliet has a much larger role. She's a fun character. Very much a late-teenaged girl, but also with a genetic and upbringing that makes her a lethal and capable bodyguard.

I'm a sucker for anything Faerie, so those part definitely appealed. I didn't think Holly's role was as impactful, but Mulch Diggums is always a hilarious character. He's a bit disgusting, if I'm honest, but still lots of fun.

I will say this, Colfer knows how to create some reprehensible villains. He always makes me laugh, but at the same time, there is a chilling undercurrent when you consider that these people are wanting to do terrible things to a teenaged boy (even one as annoying as Artemis Fowl). Arno Blunt is rather like the evil version of Butler, but much less awesome or cool. In other words, he's no match!

This book has some enjoyable spy action scenes and faerie happenings, which I appreciated. I think I was just so impressed with the last book, that it seemed to fall short for me. I can't say too strongly how much I will miss Butler taking more of a physical role in the books, if what has happened in this one affects future books like it seems it will.

You know I will keep reading this series.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Greek Tycoon's Unexpected Bride by Annie West

The Greek Tycoon's Unexpected Wife (In the Greek Tycoon's Bed)The Greek Tycoon's Unexpected Wife by Annie West
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I would definitely take off points because the hero is a mega-jerk. He is so hateful to Tessa. I can understand his cyncism about women, but it's almost like he was angry that Tessa hadn't died as he thought previously. I think that Tessa was remarkably tolerant of Stavros. I really wanted her to stab him with a fork. No matter what she did, he perceived it in the worst light. I'm assuming he was sleeping around with other women while she was gone, but it's not directly stated. In this case, I wouldn't hold that against him, per se, because he thought she was dead. My big issue is how he's such a tool to her when it's apparent she couldn't be more different from the women in his past and his father's ex-wives. This is one of those books where I wished that the heroine had really left him and he had to jump through all kinds of hoops to get her back. Not enough groveling for my tastes. I thought the imagery was good, and Stavros had a really dark aura that scared Tessa, what you'd expect from a hero who was a very bad man, not just a tool. That was kind of interesting. I really like Anne West's books. She's a good writer. The hero was just too mean for my tastes in this one.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars

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The Secret Wife by Lynne Graham

The Secret WifeThe Secret Wife by Lynne Graham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of the older Lynne Grahams that I read many moons ago, but I didn't remember most of it. It was a good reread. The hero in this was a jerk. I think Rosalie was nicer to him than he deserved, but she wasn't a pushover. He always managed to see her in the worst light, if not an avaricious femme fatale, than a spineless tart. I felt that he really did need to earn Rosalie's love. I like that he was so jealous of her roommate and friend, who was by all accounts, a beefcake. By the end, he was remorseful, but still a bit too high on the horse for my tastes. I like that his adopted mom guessed right away what was going on. That was pretty funny, considering all the changes they went through to hide the truth from her. Constantine would never be a favorite LG hero for me, but I really did enjoy Rosalie and I like that she held her own with him, or somewhat.

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One Evening in London by Rae Lori

One Evening in LondonOne Evening in London by Rae Lori
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good short novella about giving love a chance after disappointment in the past. After being burned in a somewhat similar situation, Angela doesn't trust her attraction to the handsome British publishing executive at the launch party for her novel. She rebuffs him, but ends up talking to him. He's not free at the time, and while their attraction is mutual and potent, they can't act on it. But Angela gives him her number to contact her in the future, just as a friend. A year later, to her surprise, Paul looks her up and and encourages her to pursue a relationship with him now that he's free. Can Angela get past her past hurts and take a chance on a future with Paul?

Lori's writing is smooth and descriptive. Her characters are very likable even with realistic chinks in their respective armor. Paul is a sweetie. Who couldn't fall in love with him, and if you're into British men, then you'll be especially susceptible. I like how Lori uses Jazz music as a motif to illustrate Angela and Paul's developing romance. This is really too short to be more than a happy for now, which is not my favorite, to be honest. But their genuine feelings for each other feel right and made me hope for a future for them. I wish they hadn't gone to bed together so abruptly at the end, but otherwise, this book really works for a short dose of romance for a busy reader.

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Saga, Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughn (Writer), Fiona Staples (Illustrator)

Saga, Volume 5Saga, Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn't like this one as much as previous volumes. Probably because Marko is separated from his family for most of the book, and the focus on Marko's ex, although I do like the little girl the bounty hunter rescued from Sextillion. It seems like the goal is to get increasingly x-rated with the content. Plenty of violence and some really overly sexual imagery in this book. I still like the concept and the fact that it's narrated by young Hazel. Alana and Marko are compelling characters and their star-crossed love story definitely appeals. Not to mention cute little Hazel. I just don't think the storytelling is as strong at it was initially.

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Lobo: Targets by Cullen Bunn, Jack Herbert

Lobo Vol. 1: Targets (The New 52)Lobo Vol. 1: Targets by Cullen Bunn
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Not the Lobo I know from the animated DC-verse shows. This is a more streamlined, deadly serious and highly lethal Lobo. I like that this book gives the reader very complex backstory on Lobo, and a new mission that is beyond just getting his bounties. In this book, Lobo is a very deadly assassin, and he's on the trail of a group of killers who took the job of blowing up earth. He gets some reluctant partners along the way.

This has a lot of mayhem and violence in it. I picked this up on impulse, so I didn't have high expectations. It's diverting and well-written. I'm not that invested in Lobo as a character, and this book didn't change that. I might read more of these if my library has them.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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The Fade Out, Vol.2: Act Two by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips

The Fade Out, Vol. 2: Act TwoThe Fade Out, Vol. 2: Act Two by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I almost don't think I'm old enough to read this--R rated and then some. Definitely the dark side of Hollywood. This volume sheds a black light on the Golden Age of Hollywood and the studio system. How many lives were wrecked in the pursuit of stardom. The characters appear to represent real life character or are composites of them. Of course, there are plenty of cameos as well. the mystery is well-written, and this book ends with a teaser that makes it impossible not to keep reading.

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Batman Incorporated, Volume 1 by Grant Morrison, et al

Batman IncorporatedBatman Incorporated by Grant Morrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Batman starts to realize that he's overextended. He has his hands full trying to protect Gotham City, and other places around the world could use their version of Batman. That's where Batman Incorporated comes in. He sees and investigates good candidates that can take on the Batman mantle in a worthy manner in different cities. This volume focuses on Tokyo and Paris. The Tokyo storyline is pretty over-the-top and crazy. It reminds me of the crazy nature of Japanese and Asian action films. The villain is seriously heinous, which is really par for the course with Batman heroes. The pace is pretty fast and frenetic, but not so much that I couldn't follow the storyline. As crazy as the Tokyo story was, the Paris one was more serious and somber. I like that Batman doesn't allow religious differences and cultural differences to preclude a worthy Batman. His choice for the Paris Batman is perfect and he is leaving the mantle in good hands there.

Grant Morrison is highly edgy in his graphic novels, and after the last one I read, I was leery. But this was a good book.

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Catwoman, Vol. 4: Gotham Underground by Ann Nocenti, Rafa Sandoval (Illustrations), Jordi Tarrogana (Illustrations)

Catwoman, Vol. 4: Gotham UndergroundCatwoman, Vol. 4: Gotham Underground by Ann Nocenti
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Catwoman goes underground is obvious from the title.This was a bit creepy with a backwoods/Deliverance/True Blood vibe thrown in. Tribal squabbles and weirder and weirder societies. There is a whole culture of people who live in the flooded underground of Gotham, and their way of life is hard and corrupt and in some ways, just plain weird. I think there are probably some characters that are part of the Gothamverse, but I'm not familiar with them. I always like the look at historical Gotham and there is a bit of that here. Joker's Daughter shows up in this, but she's slightly different from her character in the recent Suicide Squad book where I first encountered her. Her character is really twisted. I did like the cat that wouldn't die, because well, I love cats. :)

I like these Catwoman books, but they feel a bit chaotic. It's kind of hard to keep up with the story at times. I do like that Catwoman is envisioned as a bit of a Robin Hood type thief/slash woman of the people instead of a self-absorbed, out for herself thief. Catwoman is a fun character to follow and I love seeing how each book designs her look.

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Fatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases Me by Ed Brubaker (Writer), Sean Phillips (Illustrator)

Fatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases MeFatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases Me by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is definitely hardboiled horror. I read this during the day, but I wouldn't read this before bed. It's very dark and some of the aspects and imagery are pretty disturbing. I couldn't tell if the author was going for a Lovecraft mythos kind of vibe or more of a Satanic/black magic kind of thing. Maybe both. There are many questions, particularly about the lead female character. What is she? Who is she? Why does she lead every man she encounters down the road of destruction. The author who is a prominent character did not inspire my sympathy in any way. The sad results of his choices did bother me, but moreso because of the innocents who were hurt because of his obsession with that woman. I am not sure if I will continue this. Part of me is curious, but I didn't like the way this made me feel as I read it. I've learned to go with my gut in my reading choices. Having said that, if you like the strange intersection of genres, particularly hardboiled/noir crime thriller and horror, you might pick this up. I would give this four stars because it's very well-written.

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Fables, Vol.16: Super Team by Bill Willingham (Writer), Mark Buckingham (illustrator), Eric Shanower (Goodreads Author) (Illustrator), Terry Moore (illustrator)

Fables, Vol. 16: Super TeamFables, Vol. 16: Super Team by Bill Willingham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can't put my finger on it, but this one wasn't a five star read for me. I think part of it's that I'm so sick of the Dark Man storyline. I just want him to be dealt with so we can move on. It was cute, how the Fables are forming a Team of heroes to fight the Dark Man, but it wasn't a strong enough concept to hang the story on. Also I didn't find the leads as compelling as Snow and Bigby are. I do like the twist with Fran Tottenkinder, but she's less present in this book as well. I just wasn't feeling this like I have past books. It's still really good, just not as good.

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Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell

The Brotherhood of the Rose (Mortalis, #1)The Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this as part of a group read for the Action/Adventure Aficionados group on Goodreads. I'm glad this won the poll because it was a reason to read it sooner rather than later.

This book really shows the world of espionage and assassins in a way that feels realistic. I could be wrong, because I'm neither an assassin nor a spy, big surprise. The author takes the concept of how spies and assassins are made and starts with children who are more or less brainwashed or controlled by the need to please their father figure so that they make highly loyal 'soldiers'.

Saul and Chris are both orphans who meet in a boys school and look to Eliot as their father figure. While Saul seems to thrive in the life of an assassin, it cause Chris serious emotional damage. He is even at the point of a form a suicide which is compatible with his Catholic belief system when Eliot activates him to find Saul. Saul finished a mission for Eliot, but Eliot makes him a patsy in a huge conspiracy that involves the president's friend. When Saul and Chris unite, their loyalty as brothers supersedes the programming of Eliot as their father. From there, it becomes a game of cat and mouse where the master spy learns just how good his students are at the craft he has taught them.

This is a very good action thriller/suspense novel. It's set in the 80s, but it doesn't feel too dated, although the issues are related to that time and it goes back to the early days of what we consider the spy trade. The idea of the Abelard Sanction was brilliant. I don't know if that's real, but it seems like it would be something that actually exists. The training that Chris and Saul get to be assassins is pretty interesting and it goes beyond the typical special forces and martial arts training. One of my favorite aspects of this book was reading about the tradecraft as Saul and Chris try to stay one step ahead of their pursuers. Also liked Erika, a Mossad agent and old lover of Saul, who is Jewish. Morrell looks at religion in natural way. He doesn't treat is as a social ill, but a part of the makeup of people, although it can be manipulated by others, in the case of Chris.

I was sad about the fate of one of the characters. I wished better for that person. That's probably the one thing I would change. Otherwise, I was pretty satisfied with this book. There's even so good humor when Saul mentally torments his 'father' at the Rest Home. I checked and this was a TV movie back in the 80s. I would love a remake.

I recommend this book.

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